Education

How to research a company before your interview

Before a job interview, find out more about your prospective company. You'll ask better questions and be able to decide if you actually want to work there.

It's imperative that you do your research on a company before you interview with them. Not only does being well-versed in a company's mission and history help you tremendously when it's time to ask the interviewer some questions, but it will also help you decide whether it's a place you even want to work.

Many times your IT skills will transfer to a completely different industry than what you've been working in. Research is also a good way to get acquainted with an industry you're not familiar with so you'll be prepared to talk about how your skills could transfer.

There are several ways to do this research. You can google the company name or, if the company is big enough, it probably has its own Web site.

Here are some other resources you can use to research a company:

What kinds of things do you want to know?

Here's the kind of information you want to look for:

  • How old is the company?
  • How large is the company?
  • What are its products or services?
  • Who are its customers?
  • Who are its major competitors?
  • What is its reputation / industry standing?
  • Where is the company's headquarters?
  • Look at the company's About Us page and see how many women and minorities they have in key roles.
  • What are its short- and long-term goals?
  • How has the company resolved problems?
  • Have there been recent employee layoffs?
  • What are the backgrounds of the managers?
  • What training programs are offered?

Get career tips in your inbox TechRepublic's IT Career newsletter, delivered Tuesday and Thursday, features insight on important IT career topics, including interviewing, career advancement, certifications, and job changes. Automatically sign up today!

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

46 comments
paulozinha
paulozinha

if you feel ok with the company after all of the research, dont forget your main goal is get hired. for this, sneak further the informations about the interview itself as possible : list of questions, the best answers, the interviewer biodata, and so on..

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

While all those bullet items in your piece seem important, the most important details of a working situation for most people is the day to day and revolve around the daily work and things like the people and the environment. I go to the company and find employees to talk to in some neutral location like the local gym, watering hole etc. and quietly garner their opinions. I look for blogs by disgruntled former employees like "why I hate Microsoft" etc. Relying on the six degrees of seperation I contact my friends and associates so that they can put me in contact with current or former employees. I talk to contractors etc. to see what their opinion is of the company. I try to talk to the person that last held the position and find out what they have to say. This will give you the real nitty gritty of what is going on and added to the generic information you list give you a more complete picture.

Ou Jipi je
Ou Jipi je

3/4 of the suggestions are a total waste of time. Let me see....I'll take them one by one - bare in mind -- years of experience speaking: * How old is the company? Bares no meaning on quality of the employment - period. * How large is the company? Unless it somehow bares importance on what you want I don't see this as a relevant issue. You might for example think to grow within a company you are applying for (you might think that you can do more than what is asked from the position in the advertisement). In which case, you should apply directly for a position that asks what you think you can do, instead of settling for less. If you don't get this point, then you should aim for area of your expertise. Secondly, you might think that larger company means larger projects etc. - wrong again. I don't know how to put this - but you can not base anything of the size of the company. Unless you own it. * What are its products or services? Who cares? I mean, come on. If you are applying for bestcondoms.com, they probably make or resell condoms. Unless you are against working for Blackwater for example (there are folks out there who might feel that way) IT job is pretty straight forward. A provision of information technology tools to accommodate the manufactoring process. Whether it is tampons or software product development it stil is straight forward. That is, unless you are software developer yourself, in which case, you can not really know what the product or services are from technical perspective (especially if the product is proprietary); unless you see the code and the development processes. Luckily, we got interviews in which you can figure it out by asking a few straight forward questions. * Who are its customers? People who pay money for the product or service (see above). * Who are its major competitors? It is almost 2010 and every competent company operating in the simmilar area of business is a major competitor (again something you might stop for a while and think about) * What is its reputation / industry standing? This is a good point. If everyone says that the company sucks - stay away from it. Unless they give you a a position and a bag of money to solve their problems (if they reckognise that they have a problem and you can indeed do so). * Where is the company's headquarters? Is this seriously a thing to consider? see further at the bottom... * Look at the company's About Us page and see how many women and minorities they have in key roles. Let me quote most common "About us page" "...People are our most important asset..." * What are its short- and long-term goals? Making money. * How has the company resolved problems? Has it found any? * Have there been recent employee layoffs? Likely. (and again something you might stop for a while and think about) * What are the backgrounds of the managers? Are you serious? * What training programs are offered? What training programs do you want? To conclude this rant - the problem with this post is that it is unclear whether it is aimed at senior software developerts or helpdesk guys. It mixes things through so much it hurts (for example, if you are applying for a helpdesk job, it would be absurd going after the backgrounds of the managers as well as if you are a senior network architect - you probably know where the headquarters are...) I don't know, I have a feeling that either the humanity is getting really stupid or these sort of "contributions" like for example "How to research a company before your interview" are being provided by those mentally challenged. Either way, reading these posts and replies, if this is todays industry standard - it is comforting to know that I am set for life.

bus66vw
bus66vw

Never forget you will be at the location of the business you work for a good portion of your day and for those of you that get to work at home, the company's impression on the outside world reflects on you so heed what follows. You need to know how you are going to get there, car routes, mass-transportation, and also if there is an off-site location and the how of getting there. This means you need to visit these locations. Look at the condition of the facility. Are there signs of neglect, damaged company vehicles, water leaking from the building, and what security measures are in deployment? These visits to the work locations can tell you a lot about the company you are considering working for. Do leg work, anybody can look good virtually.

cutshawkid
cutshawkid

Why didn't you include LinkedIn and other social media tools in your list? There are many examples of researching companies and jobs being landed through social networking.

LevyRecruits
LevyRecruits

For one, use LinkedIn to look at the recent hires in your area: where they came from, their new title, what they say about their roles. Two, and because this is an IT/SW site, use Google and search using the following string (copy and paste into the search box): *.*@COMPANY.COM date to from -job -jobs -resume SKILL where COMPANY.COM is the url -www (techrepublic.com) and SKILL is perl, java, vmware, etc. Then read a bit about what questions current and past employees ask/answer.

Popsprice
Popsprice

I got faster more specific information by entering my employers name at Bing.com.

ericwhart
ericwhart

Privately held companies aren't required to post information like publicly held ones. It would be far more useful of a post if you went further into details on conducting research on a more analytical level. Sights like Hoovers charge you for information other than the bare minimum posted anyway and further to my point, privately held companies don't have to fully disclose.

adeintown
adeintown

yah this information is very very helpful

MikeGall
MikeGall

I had a company that I applied to once with a very generic job description. Something like they were looking for a C++ developer with MS SQL Server experience and basic IT skills. I applied on a Saturday. 10 minutes later while I'm still looking for information on the companies webpage, the owner calls me up and asks me how much I know about his company :-). 10 minutes to an interview on a Saturday, hard to prepare for that one.

dkidd23
dkidd23

I didn't really read anything I don't currently use and I have always researched a company before calling or sending a resume. One good place to look that is not mentioned is http://www.linkedin.com You can do a company search there and people who work or have worked at the company and listed it on their profile will show up and you can use them to get a feel for the company environment. You can also take the names of employees from that company then see what they are posting on twitter if they use that resource.

darrell.carden
darrell.carden

Knowing as much as possible about a company is essential during the interview, and performing research is important. But nothing replaces good old-fashioned networking and personal information gathering. When looking for work, the most important thing is to grow your network of personal contacts. Talk to people to identify companies that you may want to work for, find out about the culture of that company, the environment, the "feel". Pick their brain to get those keywords and phrases that will set you apart from the other 200 people that apply for the same job. Get off the computer, get out in the world, and talk to people.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

When I worked as a BDM for a recruiter, there were companies that would sell a list of the keywords and specific criteria a company was seeking. People used to just fill resumes with the content the company desired and would e a shoe-in. As knowledge of such companies started to grow, many recruiters are now prompting companies to enter specific keys that are just triggers so they can tell when someone has bought a hit list. But many still slide by. I think the most important aspect to investigating ANY company, whether seeking a job or working against them, is to gain a strong knowledge of their product lines and their competitors. Of course that is assuming you have already determined who the best contact person is, start at the top and work your way down. Find the CEO, owner or boss and if that person won't see you, they will recommend you see someone else. Then when you cold call THAT person, just mention that you were speaking to XXXX(their boss)and he recommended you speak to them. Always figure out the hierarchy and work top to bottom, NEVER try to work from HR upward.

samanoze
samanoze

I think the woman is making sense with all the tips listed above. Researching the company before applying at all will do a lot of help to you on the d-day. So please guys, take that into cognizance.

jayanthi1998
jayanthi1998

There is another site called glassdoor.com that might help

jkameleon
jkameleon

1) Get all the data about company from the central business registry. Divide the salary expense by the number of employees. If it's less than --say-- 1000 to 2000 Euros for manufacturing, or 3000 Euros for R&D, don't bother researching further. The actual amounts depend on your current economic situation. 2) Take a look at the company's website. Pay special attention to the words like "young", "dynamic", "innovative", "growing", "enthusiastic", and so on. If they are too abundant, don't bother researching further. If the company is boasting about its "highly skilled but extremely cost competitive work force" like these punks http://web.archive.org/web/20031214021402/www.seaway.si/eng/subcontracting.htm (upper right corner) , avoid it like the plague. 3) Inquiry about the job position over the phone. If they are unable or unwilling to describe it, don't bother researching further. If they say something like "I don't have time for that, you just send us your resume, and then we'll maybe talk", the call for applications is phony. Don't bother sending anything. 4) If you aren't living out of the car, and selling marketable bodily fluids to make ends meet at the moment, inquire about salary as soon as politeness allows. If they evade the question, like "how rude, we are looking for people who don't work just for money", don't trouble yourself about the lost opportunity, because it wasn't. That job only looked like opportunity, but actually, it was just a waste of time. 5) Do some additional research, try to estimate whether the company will survive the next 2 years or so. The bigger the salary increase, the bigger risk can be tolerated. 6) Go for it!

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

to answer another poster, I'd seen websites where current / former employees of companies can post about the companies they work for, including how they liked job, manager, management, etc. my wife uses manta, for company info esp for small companies if they don't have own website. detailed info is charged for

Kam Guerra
Kam Guerra

The list is certainly entertaining, but most of the information is press releases or other information that's publicly available. What would be more welcome, and relevant when researching a company, is information regarding the internal climate and management quality. For instance, one of the sites listed has a job section where the salaries for the positions listed are fluffed up to make them more appealing. A company that works like that definitely can?t be good to work for.

jck
jck

if I get an interview, and see what happens. This is helpful. Maybe it can be the thing that helps me land something else.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

When I read this, the first thing in my mind was pentest. How do I research a company during the initial steps of auditing. What steps in addition to these sources and questions can be included during footprinting and recon? (outside of nslookup, whois and the passive recon FF tabs)

pdr5407
pdr5407

I think finding out what the company is selling is very important. I would not want to walk into an interview at a company that sells adult products or drugs for example. The best companies provide economic benefits and solutions to people and business in a town or city.

HappyHeathen
HappyHeathen

I believe that the research you cite is not intended to necessarily help with selecting a prospective employer, but to give you the background information to discuss the history and current nature/performance of the prospective employer. Being able to share this knowledge during an interview may help to impress the interviewer that you care enough to learn more about the company before coming aboard.

SilverBullet
SilverBullet

Privately held companies use false statements made with deliberate intent to deceive, an intentional untruth. Get testimonials from current and past employees. Not easy to do, but worth the effort.

paulozinha
paulozinha

just asking, what if i do talk to people in 2.0 way? like were doing right now..so i dont have to get off from my computer as you suggest? does it make any difference? anything but get off from my computer..please

JamesRL
JamesRL

You can often find the jobs also posted on open job boards, and the words in the listing can be used to create the right response. As for research, there is a wealth of information out there on big public companies, from financial reports, stock information and other sources. Google away. For my current position, I found on the net a presentation a salesperson had made up for a prospective client. It was very instructive about the different offerings and how they were positioned. James

jck
jck

All weak. Only one of five had a review for a single arm of my current employer. Then looked up the perspective place...nothing. Guess if I go up for an interview, I'm gonna have to ask the current employees for their opinions under promise of anonymity.

darpoke
darpoke

and while I agree you can judge a company by their reactions in person or on the phone - of course - I would judge the information on their website with a little, shall we say... tolerance. The thing is, many companies, the one I work for included, don't build their own website. They contract this out or pay for it as a service. Even if they use a CMS to update it themselves, it's not the definitive insight into the corporate workings that one might assume. While I take your point about buzzwords du jour indicating a lack of genuine focus or worth - and agree with this in personal contact - on a website I feel all it indicates is that the person updating the site doesn't really know what to say. And why not? It's pretty hard deciding how to represent your company to the world. I'd hold back from judging too much of the corporate culture from the company website. By all means use it to form suspicions, but wait for these to be confirmed in person before you write the company off. My company hasn't got the best or most well-thought-out site in the world, but it's staffed with the nicest people you could meet and I can't think of a more pleasant working culture. Take a chance and don't let superficialities throw you off. If you reject every prospective date based on a single flaw you'll grow old alone: the same goes for job seeking. And hiring too, for the record. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

valduboisvert
valduboisvert

Even though not everything you said can be applied everywhere, this is a very educative approach. thanks a lot!

cutting
cutting

There are so many "job offers" being posted that are not real, but are spammers masquerading as employers, gathering personal information for future identity theft. Listings that do not include a company name or other identifying information that can be useful to investigate that company as a potential employer are not going to be responded to by me. Sending a resume to a company web site is best because there is a better feeling that the listing is real and will be secure.

sureshrampersad@hotmail.
sureshrampersad@hotmail.

Ask for staff retention and turnover statistics. Beware of the HR marketing glitz. Some companies can create an excellent make believe situation.Check the companies track record on employee development.

Ou Jipi je
Ou Jipi je

You are suggesting though that one one hand; the proposed research is not (neccesarily) intended to help you with the selection. On the other hand; you are suggesting that it should give you _enough_ information to discuss the history and current nature/performance of the prospective employer. To put it plainly, if I understand you correctly, you are suggesting that one should do just _enough_ research for not to ask dumb questions about the company during of the interview. Fair enough - staggeringly obvious (and possibly quite simplistic - at least imho), but fair enough. There might be some folks reading techrepublic blog and say..."Yeah! Thats what I should have done! I should have found out what the company is selling before I went to the interview!" - and/or - "I should have researched the background of the managers(!??)" George Carlin mentioned in one of his routines - "Because the education system is bad, it is the very reason behind why it will not get any better".

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

But it is becoming more and more popular, I am also not talkign abotu these low end online employer reviews that are just the dregs of a data compiler that compiles phone numbers for calling lists. You know very well that my focus on finding work is to work at it and not just send out resumes anyway. I wouldn't even apply for advertised hjobs to begin with, as for leads to prospects, no thanks. I was referring to the EXPENSIVE career management companies tha simply prep yuo on a particular company and give you all the inside personal information, body language, vocal strength etc. that you should use in order to BS them into hiring you. They cost in the thousands and guarantee you a spotiion and work with you for 4 years to find other work if it doesn't pan out. There are some very legitimate companies that do just that and are very effective, but there are now a host of others that are diguised as career managers that simply feed employees inside info to get hired.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

There are actually companies like recruiters that help you determine exactly hwo to write a resume ased on the company you are aplpyign to. They disguise themselves as career coaches and career management companies, but they are pretty underhanded. One that I know of costs $4000.00 and they will known specifically the requirements sought out by a selected hiring company, they have profiled the hiring managers and know exactly what buzz words and keys will set them off.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Google it. One of our competitors made the top 5. James

jkameleon
jkameleon

Not very accurate, but on the other hand, they are quick and easy to check, so it makes sense to check them early. If the company openly boasts about how cheap its workforce is (see that link I've posted), you can be pretty sure it's no good.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

ha.. yes.. not something I may check in a pentest but for a job hunt that's a great tip. I remember getting the office memo about the management training offered in the company. IT and HR where honestly confused when I asked if comparable training development was available on the IT side. IT departments with a development program are as rare as random treasure it seems.

darpoke
darpoke

that - I simply scrolled some of the lines of your post 'til they were half on the top of my browser window - to read the bottom of them - and half on the bottom to read the top. The tops were easier, I agree. I left differing amounts of the text visible, and at first there was little to no difference but as the visible portion got smaller I was able to read the top half more easily. More differentiation is probably the key, as you say. I totally agree about our limitations, too. For any sense or physical ability we prize in ourselves, there is a creature that has evolved the same ability to an extent which makes ours pale in comparison. The only faculty in which we excel is our cognitive ability - we simply have the single biggest mass of neurons of any creature we've yet encountered. It's proved a devastating enough advantage that we've hunted into extinction nearly every species we regard as a threat or a delicacy, and are working on prolonging the rest so that our children can pet/eat them. Perhaps we really are too smart for our own good...

darpoke
darpoke

out about stuff like that. It's like getting a look at the tech spec for your physical body - sensor limitations, RAM capacity, software interpolation, that sort of thing. Stage one of overclocking: Get an accurate system spec :-)

DucksRGood
DucksRGood

Oddly enough, the original bit, (as referenced on the link you included) I CAN read. However, most of the follow-on comments to it, written in that manner and many of the comments here like that, I can't read some of the more complicated words in particular. Decoding slows down my reading so much on these, that I lose the thread of meaning in the sentence before I can consume the entire sentence. I am generally quite good at spelling. When I'm reading, typos and spelling errors LEAP off the page and depending on the mood I'm in at the time, almost derail my ability to comprehend the intended message. This is particularly true in more complicated subject matter. And yet, in daily life, I'm much more flexible in my thinking. Interesting. I know this thread is about researching potential employers, but I wonder what useful info about ourselves we can glean from this?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Even more interesting is reading an entire sentence by just looking at the top half of the letters. You can actually read a sentence just by seeing the differentiating letter heights, but it doesn't work the other way around by looking at the lower half. I think it was probably more applicable to handwriting, but it seems to work with many font styles too. Try it, type a sentencec, cover the top half of the words and see hew illegible the sentence is. Now try it with the bottom half of the word covered, and see how easy it is to read the top half. I was just talking with a friend yesterday about how many people think we are such an advanced and capale species, and yet we really are easily fooled. Our eyes deceive us constantly, we see 16 frame per second motion and our minds fill in the other frames automatically. Slight of hand magic plays on our visual/mental deficiencies. We have a terrile sense of smell, sight, hearing, compared to most animals too. Humans 'are not a perfect machine in anyway, in fact the flaws and limitations of our abilities only make a suprene creator even less realistic. If there was a supreme creator, he sure must of had a laugh when he made humans. "I know, lets create one that only walks on it's hind legs, is limited in speed, can't see very well, is physically weak, can't hear, can't smell. I'll send them out into the mix as easy prey for all the other animals. To be fair, I'll give them opposing thumbs so they can at least try to defend themselves." ! :D To top that off, there are even people that believe that in all of the vast reaches of space, we are the the only and most intelligent life form.

darpoke
darpoke

accuse you of going OT from my post since it was OT itself - but I was only talking about forum posts. It's hardly realistic to expect all TR members to sweep their posts with a fine-toothed comb, even if I do try to avoid typos myself. Different folks consider different things important - some value their time above lexical or syntactic accuracy. Personally I don't like misspelling when I write. To each their own. Of course, when discussing CVs, it's completely unacceptable to have poor spelling or grammar. This is one of the only documents nearly every adult has to create where these are critical. If you can't get them right for *this* purpose (i.e. finding work, presenting yourself to a prospective employer), then it's a logical conclusion that you're either incapable or will never care. Neither of these is what an employer wants to hire, I suspect. I find it equally annoying that the prevalence of email in business communications has lowered the formality of correspondence. I'm not some old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud (although I'm sure that's their motto ;\ ) but I think in losing formality we've lost a lot of professionalism, too. I get emails from people I've never met or contacted that start 'Hi' instead of 'Dear Mr', and it seems when you assume that level of informality that you become incapable of structuring an email like you would a letter. Spelling and grammar appear to go out of the window, too. Are we all too busy to proofread an email or do we no longer care? I can't think which is worse. Nonetheless I will maintain that expecting someone to apply the same level of care and attention to all their efforts is a little unrealistic. Just because someone is an ace programmer or network technician doesn't necessarily imply that they are skilled at English or that they even attach any value to the accuracy of their prose. I don't think it's meaningful to judge one by the other.

richard.b.fowler
richard.b.fowler

I am looking for moderately intelligent talent when I interview someone for a position. If the resume and/or cover letter (presumably written with a word processor) have typos, then my basic assumption is that the person doesn't have enough IT skill to be useful and is (stupidly) arrogant enough to think that spelling and grammar don't matter in the workplace. The same goes for employers whose websites contain spelling and grammar errors. I won't apply if that level of sloppiness is permitted. OK, I'll grant that I may be a bit arrogant myself, but words matter. If your program code has a typo, it won't compile -- why should your resume receive less attention?

darpoke
darpoke

completely OT and may look like it's intended to offend but please let me assure you it's not. I was just reading your post (to which I've replied) and noticed a typo - I know from reading previous posts of yours that you pay no mind to these, many posters on here don't and that's your prerogative, I'm not judging for a second and don't mean to provoke a flame war. But it did remind me of short news piece I read that was about research done which found that it's possible for a human mind to read a passage of text in which all the letters in each word are jumbled up, provided that the first and last characters are in the correct position. Isn't that interesting? Let me demonstrate with a short passage, to test. This is taken from the article we're discussing: It?s irapmevite taht you do yuor rarceseh on a capmony brofee you ivereintw wtih tehm. Not olny deos bneig wlel-vreesd in a cnampoy?s mosisin and hotrsiy hlep you tsodelmernuy wehn it?s tmie to ask the iwiternever smoe qotseiuns, but it wlil aslo hlep you didcee wehtehr it?s a pcale you eevn wnat to wrok. It turned out to be an internet meme - check the link here - but I still found it interesting and felt I ought to share it with you guys :-)

jkameleon
jkameleon

Working with fiberglass is one of the nastiest jobs in existance. Chemicals, glass wool, and toxic fumes. All people get greenish blue in the face after a couple of months of such work. Dead Peasant insurance would be ideal here.

darpoke
darpoke

On the other hand, it is rather kind of these sorts of establishments to clarify how unsavoury they are - sort of like a lighthouse to warn against moral bankruptcy. I guess it's a case of getting a look at how the company sells itself to its customers, and contrasting it with how it sells itself to you as a prospective applicant. This would be a very valid clue that you wouldn't be prized in such an establishment. [edit: typo]

Editor's Picks